Undervalued Spotlight #316

pepcomics_26_7-0Pep Comics #26, MLJ Magazines, April 1942

It’s such a pleasure to introduce Gene Lomoriello as this week’s guest Spotlight writer. Let’s hope this is the 1st of many from Mr. Lomoriello. Gene has been commenting on the site as readcomix and freely sharing with us his useful observations and insights. Gene’s knowledge shines through but even more impressive to me is his sense of community and good will. Gene certainly picked a monster for his first foray, offering up a strong argument for this gem of a comic. Now let’s turn things over to Gene:  

Let’s conduct a little thought experiment. Let’s imagine a “What If?” scenario in which Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduce only three out of the four members members of the Fantastic Four in FF#1. Imagine the details as you like; perhaps the FF are not actually shown until after the crash, and one of the four is missing in the aftermath of the crash. Doesn’t matter who; take your pick.

Then let’s say that said fourth member turns up alive a few issues later, to the shock of the others. He or she returns telling a tale of waking far from the crash site, temporarily amnesiac, and reveals their own fantastic powers to the other three.

Wouldn’t the issue in which the fourth member is finally introduced be the second most valuable issue of the run? Yes, I realize that the first 10 issues are practically all keys, but regardless wouldn’t the intro of one of the core four push whichever issue higher in value than it already is?

It is based on this premise that I offer my pick for this week’s Undervalued Spotlight, Pep Comics #26.

Pep #26 is the introduction of the fourth core member of the Archie Universe, Veronica Lodge, yet it is only the eighth most valuable Golden Age Archie comic, with Pep #’s 22, 23, 34 and 36; Archie #1, 2 and 3, and Jackpot #4 all outstripping it.

Of course, Pep #22 starts it all, introducing Archie, Betty and Jughead in the same six-page tale, and Jackpot #4 was released right on its heels, and Pep #34 is a classic cover and #36 is the first full Archie cover, and Archie #1-3 are all listed in the Guide as scarce, but…eighth??? For the first appearance of arguably one of the most important female characters in comics history?

Veronica is certainly one of the most enduring – her 5,596 appearances according to ComicVine is more than Wonder Woman, more than Lois Lane, more than any other female character except for…Betty Cooper.

More importantly, Veronica Lodge’s pivotal role as cornerstone of the Riverdale universe cannot be overstated. Without her, there is no Betty & Veronica, no love triangle, no source of endless dramatic/comedic tension on which so many Archie tales are based.

If Reggie is the closest thing the Archie universe has to a Dr Doom or Darkseid, Veronica is the closest thing to the Sub-Mariner in that she, in an Archie universe kind of way, plays the anti-hero role, a sometimes friend/sometimes foe who is always on the side of right when the chips are down.

Veronica’s intro completes the birth of the Archie universe, makes it all possible, yet it is eighth among Archie books in the Guide!

Pep #22 aside, I suppose one could argue scarcity is the factor favoring the others, but it is far from a clear-cut case. The Gerber index gives Pep #26 a 5, same as #23 and #36 and Archie #2, and higher than the 4 assigned to Pep #34, so it’s in the middle of the pack, scarcity-wise, by the Gerber index.

But the CGC census (while not complete, another indicator) shows only 12 graded copies, by far the fewest of the eight! Pep #23 is next, with 20% more graded copies at 15 on the census. From there, it’s Pep #34 (19 graded), Pep #22 (23), Pep #36 (25), Archie #3 (26), Archie #2 (28), Jackpot #4 (30) and Archie #1 (51).

Given the relative apparent scarcity of this issue and the importance of Veronica Lodge in comics history, I contend it is the second-most important Archie comic of all time behind Pep #22. Of course it’s possible to view it differently, and I could see arguments being made for a few of the others, but not all six other Archie comics that are currently priced higher.

At its current Overstreet valuation of 8.0 at $5,132; 9.0 at $9,066; 9.2 at $13,000, this may be the most undervalued first appearance remaining of a top-tier character introduced in the Golden Age.

To recap, reasons for the Pep #26 pick:

  •  Introduces Veronica Lodge, the only major Archie character not introduced in Pep #22
  • Ranked eighth in price among all Archie comics
  • Only 12 graded copies on CGC census, fewer than all Archie books priced higher

Readcomix is the eBay and Heritage Auctions handle of Gene Lomoriello, a long-time comic book collector from New York’s Hudson Valley region. He has written for Overstreet’s Comic Book Monthly and Golden Age Quarterly, and Jon Warren’s Comics Source. He has interviewed and profiled numerous comics creators including Victor Gorelick, the late Herb Trimpe, Jim Starlin, Dan Chichester, Wendy and Richard Pini, and Joe Sinnott, for whose profile he also interviewed Stan Lee.

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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Dennis De Pues
7 years ago

Great post Lou! I always have appreciated your well thought out comments and congratulate you on your hopefully first of many contributions to CBD!Well thought out and artfully articulated!

Charlie Kim
7 years ago

Sounds logical to me, and well presented… Thanks Readcomix ^_^

Mike Huddleston
7 years ago

Welcome aboard Gene! I like your argument for an substantial increase in the books value and where it ranks in canon of Archie comics. Hard to believe that a Fantastic Four #2 is worth pretty much the same as Pep #26 comic in Overstreet today. First appearance of Veronica Talbot or the first appearance of the Skrulls! I know which book i’d pick, given the chance.

7 years ago

Thank you all for the kind words, and for welcoming me since I stumbled across Walt’s site. (I think I was researching a book I was interested in, and one of Walt’s Undervalued Spotlights was among the results for it). I appreciate your comic book wisdom and camaraderie; thank you!
Mike, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but FF#2 (far from a bad book to own, of course) is about the best alternative at that price point and grade…hmmm, I’ll stick with a GA key.
What a great thought for a variant column; sort of like investment magazines do…what’s the best use of $1,000 currently? Has potential; we could argue low-grade Gold vs high-grade Bronze or … you get it….anyway, thanks again all!

Mike Huddleston
7 years ago

OK Walt – I have a 9.0 Pep #26 (if I could find one) and a Fantastic 4 #2 9.0. Which one would you want ? This is no disrespect to FF #2, I like the book too. I used it to underscore just how undervalued Pep#26 is, and it fit neatly with Gene’s Fantastic 4 analogy.

Overvalued Overstreet features a former UV spotlight pick of yours tomorrow. No dis-respect intended, but certainly a difference of opinion!

Yes Gene you have to love the comaraderie amongst the comicbookdaily team ^-^!

7 years ago

Man I love brunettes. If a Pep 26 came on the market now it would certainly break all sales records. Maybe next time the undervalued spotlight could be on the arc of the covenant. Finding that would be just slightly harder than a Pep 26! Not criticism for an excellent post but I think the undervalued spotlight should focus on books that aren’t unicorns.

7 years ago

Walt, I think Mike answered eloquently on FF#2 already; no diss at all, just a handy comparator. Heck, I agree with your agrument that FF#1 is undervalued; it is all relative. I think there’s a neat collecting strain that presages the current pop culture costumed hero fascination on TV and movies (think TV era of Heroes and Smallville and X-Files). I think Kirby and later Lee were way ahead of that curve, which is why I am assembling a Silver Age subset to include Showcase #6 (Kirby seeds idea of non-costumed heroes), FF#1 &2, TTA #27 and the Dr. Droom Amazing Adventures issues. There’s probably more than a few pre-hero prototype issues of TTA, TOS, Strange Tales etc. that belong too. I think that however briefly their vision for the Marvel Universe (ties nicely with Lee’s concept of heroes with real-world problems) was heroes that also look like they belong in the real world. Hard to argue with early DC successes though, and an easy adjustment for those two to combine their idea with a resurgence of costumed heroes. Hence the thoroughly dualistic nature of many early Marvel heroes — Thor, IronMan, Hulk really were ordinary in their secret identities; Spider-Man was practically a straight version of an Archie comic with the high school/home life milieu outside of the costume. Just my 2 cents on early evolution; I’d love to know if they really were thinking ordinary-looking as well as “real world people with super powers” when they began to craft the Marvel U.

7 years ago

Thank you, and that’s the first question I asked myself when I picked Pep #26 too (Is a really scarce book a good choice?), but I ultimately decided to submit it to Walt because, while it is a narrow subset, rare unicorn books can have undervalued gems within their peer group. I think of it as More Fun #73 about 15-20 years ago. I never found a copy of the book while it was still affordable, and we may all of us may not see a Pep #26 come up for sale any time soon, but I think it belongs on the radar of any collector with the means to buy a mid-pack top 50 Silver Age book.
It’s not a pick like MTU Annual #4 or New Mutants #26 where you can go rifling $1 boxes, wait a few weeks, and have a stack of $50 bills, but its an “if you EVER see it, nab it” pick in the spirit of looking back at the past and wishing I could’ve found a More Fun #73, or wishing someone had told me 20 years ago that Hulk #1 would climb as far as it did. Pep #26 is the only Golden Age key left that I see with that kind of potential. Where’s Stephen K when we need him, because if there’s others I wanna know!

7 years ago

Love the opening premise of this article and it totally works. I’m convinced that Pep #26 is undervalued. Now to spend the rest of the day imagining a relaunched Fantastic Four with Mr Fantastic missing for the first arc.